Project Summary

The advanced analytical capabilities of the Forming and Crash Lab at the University of Waterloo, coupled with the engineering expertise and production efficiency of Bowman Precision Tooling, is accelerating next-generation Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) automotive parts with safety and performance in mind.

“This project was the final push in our evolution from a tool and die company to an automotive tooling tech centre for AHSS. This project helped us realize that, embrace it and market ourselves as such.”
Jamie Bowman, President, Bowman Precision Tooling


Bowman logo

Bowman, founded in 1948, is a privately held SME with approximately 75 employees in its 58,000 sq. ft. Brantford facility. Bowman has built a reputation as a world-class supplier of metal stamping technology. Following the 2008 economic downturn, Bowman leveraged its engineering and technical skills to become a globally competitive engineering expert in the automotive tooling industry. Through its relationship with the Forming and Crash Lab at Waterloo, Bowman is setting itself apart as specialists in design and engineering solutions for the production of large, complex parts using advanced materials.

Read more about Bowman’s engineering solutions:


Vehicle lightweighting is a key component of improving fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 3rd Generation Advanced High Strength Steels (3rd Gen AHSS) combine strength and ductility properties capable of producing lighter vehicle components that can meet or exceed crash performance and also enable more aggressive and contemporary vehicle styling cues. As these grades become readily available, it is important to explore upfront how best to leverage their enhanced formability to produce cost efficient lightweight steel solutions.

Researchers from Waterloo’s Forming and Crash Lab (part of WatCAR Manufacturing) approached Bowman about a multi-stage project to design, model and test full-scale automotive parts from next-generation automotive steels, in particular the B-pillar—a structural component of vehicles where strength is critical to safety.

B-pillar on a typical car frame
B-pillar location on a typical car frame


Combining Bowman’s production-scale efficiency with Waterloo’s advanced modeling and analysis capabilities, the first phases of the project were a success, including material characterization, forming and impact simulations, virtual tool design, tooling fabrication, and B-pillar forming trials.

“The availability of full-time, dedicated research staff at Waterloo was instrumental in this project.”
Jamie Bowman, President, Bowman Precision Tooling

As an in-kind contribution, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) supplied the project with the 3rd Gen AHSS grades, funding support, and steel industry expertise. A major automotive manufacturer collaborated jointly on this project and provided significant insight on part design. Waterloo also helped Bowman acquire large-scale equipment through Ontario government grants. Videos of the 5-axis CNC machine and 1500 metric tonne press are available on Bowman’s site.

Full-scale tooling and B-Pillar part
Full scale B-pillar tooling (left) and formed part (right)


As a result of early project success and networking opportunities, Bowman is now performing the latest virtual tool simulation methods and advanced material characterizations to create next-generation steel parts with automotive safety and performance in mind. Global customers seek Bowman’s innovative engineering expertise, practical manufacturing insights, and complete CAD/CAM solutions.

Bowman’s innovation capacity and engineering expertise leverages the superior properties of AHSS, leading not only to business growth, but also direct advantages to Bowman’s customers, including lighter vehicles, better crash performance and automotive part consolidation.

As a direct result of collaborating with Waterloo (in addition to AISI and automotive partners), Bowman has reported over $2M in contracts with major automotive suppliers and manufacturers and continues to increase employment at its Brantford facility.


The next phase of the project is crashworthiness testing of the 3rd Gen AHSS B-pillar at the Forming and Crash Lab’s Structural Crashworthiness Sled Facility.

Waterloo Forming and Crash Sled facility
Waterloo’s Forming and Crash Sled facility

Bowman is commercializing its new capabilities and expertise gained from this project to automotive clients around the world. The success of this collaboration with Waterloo represents the final stage in Bowman’s evolution from a tool and die company to a leading science-based tooling tech centre that provides innovative engineering solutions for the automotive sector.

“The future of Ontario’s manufacturing sector is not just about making or assembling things, but rather in providing innovative engineering and technical solutions.”
Jamie Bowman, President, Bowman Precision Tooling